I WAS impressed by Helen McArdle's pointed article on the deficiencies of our self-isolation/quarantine system in contrast to those of many other countries and the crucial role these have played in the level of infection ("How Scotland’s ‘tougher’ quarantine hotels may restrict travel to England for months to come", January 31). There is more to be said.

I recently had the misfortune to find myself in South Africa amidst the growing concern about the coronavirus variant. On flying back to Glasgow, I was relieved that PCR testing for returnees had belatedly been put in place, together with improved passenger locator procedures. I was duly contacted inside 24 hours by a pleasant woman who went through the protocol for self-isolation with me. What struck me forcibly, however, was its failure to "follow the science": specifically the psychological science.

The script that was employed for the interaction read as a rigidly bureaucratic and legalistic document, not as important guidance for an anxious traveller. If not actually incomprehensible (to me), it was at least alienating and irritating (to most). There is decades of research on persuasive communication, presentation of information to enhance behavioural change and the improvement of compliance with advice (for example, with medical regimes). None of this knowledge or expertise was apparent in the production of this script. Indeed it could be said to have made every mistake in the book.

There are many reasons why Scotland will not be Taiwan in respect of this pandemic – resources, existing systems, culture all play their part in the difficult decisions the authorities have to face in implementing procedures for, say, quarantine. However, the failure to design its interventions in ways which are likely to increase the understanding and engagement of those receiving them shows a lack of seriousness that is unforgivable. As Ms McArdle suggests there are many potential alterations that could usefully be made to our current processes with varying degrees of resourcing required. Changing the protocol for interacting with the subjects of the procedures is surely the simplest and least expensive. "The Science" suggests that it may also be one of the most effective.

Rob Leiper, Glasgow.


NOWADAYS it seems that the First Minister is increasingly girnin' and grumblin' about most of what comes out of the mouth of the Westminster Government. I suppose this is to be expected as we close in on the date for the Scottish elections. But surely the time has now come for Ms Sturgeon to stand up in the Scottish Parliament and, on behalf of the Scottish people, deliver a "thank you" message to Boris Johnson and his team for their wisdom and foresight in pursuing a strategy for vaccine procurement which has ensured the timeous supply of vaccine to cover the entire British population.

Such excellent work has now enabled the rapid implementation of a vaccination programme for the whole of the United Kingdom. This is now proceeding apace, with spectacular results, particularly so in England.

All this contrasts sharply with the performance of the EU, whose leadership seemingly had considered resorting to banditry to try to mitigate its own institutional vaccine supply problems. This British success is clearly a major factor in the ongoing battle to defeat the deadly coronavirus and deserves commendation by all British citizens.

Alexander Wilkie, Bearsden.


BORIS Johnson needs to be reminded that in a global pandemic it's not the best idea to travel hundreds of miles in order to insult at least half of Scotland.

Claiming Scottish independence is "irrelevant" is a gross error of judgment similar to thinking that shaking hands with Covid patients wouldn't result in transmission. No wonder he's been savaged by both Professor Linda Bauld and Nicola Sturgeon.

Scots should remember he pulled the same reckless trick ignoring pandemic travel law. He's also seen fit to effectively pillory not one but 20 polls to the contrary of his and Alister Jack's skewed take on Scottish democracy. Nobody should be fooled by the London-centric rhetoric of the LSE report allegedly bolstering the Union. However, frictionless trade and travel, with all the cultural possibilities, as part of a wider economic bloc easily eclipses that.

Furthermore the Tories' alliance with other unionist parties has already fallen off the tracks and the likelihood of another attack on Scottish democracy from Westminster winning seems increasingly implausible.

Ian Beattie, Aberdeen.


I NOTE that Vicky Allan omitted to include Helen B Cruickshank (1886-1974) in her article " ("20 of Scotland’s greatest poets – who aren’t Burns", January 31) despite The Herald having occasionally included her poems in the Poem of the Day column.

Heleln Cruickshank was regarded as a focal point of the Scottish Literary Renaissance, and is commemorated at Makas Court, Edinburgh, her name being inscribed in stone alongside a quotation from her poem Spring in the Mearns. There is also a bronze bust of her in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. Edinburgh University conferred on her an Honorary MA degree in l971. BBC Scotland broadcast a radio programme of her poems and life to celebrate Helen's 80th birthday.

She started writing poetry in 1912, became a civil servant, campaigner and suffragette. Along with CM. Grieve (Hugh MacDiarmid) she was a founder of the Scottish Centre of PEN (Poets, Playwrights, Editors, Essaysits and Novelists) International, acting as its honorary secretary for many years. Grieve became a life-long friend whose work she supported, as she did with many other writers.

Her home in Edinburgh became the focal point for meetings and parties with many of Scotland's well-known writers including James Leslie Mitchell (Lewis Grassic Gibbon), Nan Shepherd, Marion Lochhead, Hamish Henderson, Norman MacCaig et al. Authors passing through Edinburgh were welcomed a to stay at her home, occupying the small guest room which became known as the 'Prophets' Chamber". Over the years students from all over the world visited her to learn from her experience and study her large collection of poetry first editions and other archive material. These she donated to Stirling University and Perth and Kinross Libraries. Little wonder that Grieve described her as "a catalyst".

Sylvia Boal, Edinburgh.


I WAS disappointed to see that Vicky Allan' omitted Duncan Ban MacIntyre. MacIntyre was probably the most accessible of the 18th century Gaelic poets.

He was born near Inveroran, Argyllshire in 1724 and fought for the Government at the battle of Falkirk. He then worked as a forester or gamekeeper in Perthshire and Argyllshire until at the age of 43 he took his family to Edinburgh.

His poetry included both acute observation of natural history plus a commitment to Gaelic culture, and he lived to take part in the Highland revival at the end of the 18th century. He died in 1812 and his monument may be seen in Greyfriars kirkyard in Edinburgh.

In his Song to the Breeches, he bitterly attacked the Government because the 1747 prohibition on the bagpipe and Highland dress fell also on the Campbells, who had fought loyally for the Hanoverians.

Quotable lines:

'S bha h-uile h-aon de'n Pharlamaid/And each one in the Parliament

Fallsail le'm fiosrachad/Was knowingly false

'N uair chuir iad na Caimbeulaich/When they put on the Campbells

Teanndachd nam briogaisean /The confinement of the breeches

'S gur h-iad a rinn am feum dhaibh/The very men who served them well

A'bhliadhna thainig an streupag .../The year the conflict came ...

Some years ago I published a short (12pp) introduction to MacIntyre's life and work. If Ms Allan wishes, I would be glad to send her a complimentary copy.

Richard A A Deveria, Aberfeldy.


YOU report that Catherine Calderwood, ex-nurse and ex-chief medical officer, has been appointed to a new role at the Royal Jubilee ("New post for former chief medical officer who broke lockdown rules", January 31). I note that the chief executive of the unit considers that the role requires "knowledge and skills" for the post applied for.

Mercifully for Dr Calderwood, there is no mention of the need to be able to exercise sound judgment, clinical or otherwise.

Alistair Richardson, Stirling.


THOSE of us who watch football on TV are continually made aware of the fact that the Premier League (no need to mention the English connection) is the greatest, most-watched and wealthiest league in the world. It is certainly the wealthiest league in the world.

The extraordinary football wealth gap which exists between the game in Scotland and England is now taken for granted by supporters and media pundits. “Why should the broadcasters invest in such an impoverished and under-performing product as Scottish football?” they ask.

I would remind them that, around 20 years ago, Scotland was able to compete with England at club and national level. However, after two decades of sponsorship by the TV companies, the financial gap which now exists between the English and Scottish games virtually amounts to financial doping.

The current Sky and BT sponsorship deal delivers £2.23 billion per annum to the Premier League and £30 million to the Scottish Premier League. When we include Amazon Prime and club sponsorships, global retail sales, season ticket receipts and money paid to clubs involved in UEFA competitions, comparisons simply become meaningless.

Given that this farcical state of affairs which has been afflicted on Scottish football (and Scottish sport in general) will not change anytime soon, I would suggest that Sport Scotland and the Scottish Government form a partnership in providing top-class, local sports facilities and coaching in as many local areas as possible and start to build up from the grass roots.

We need to bring back the national pride which we Scots once had in our sporting achievements and this course of action seems to me to be our best and probably, only, opportunity.

Hugh Phillips, Bothwell.